I used to be a man. When we bought our first home, I watched episodes of This Old House and bought things like a framing square and compound mitre saw. Most importantly, I set out to find the perfect lawn mower. It’s right there on page two of the Man Manual: “Judge a man by his lawn.” (Don’t ask what’s on page one.)

I chose my lawn mower the way ballplayers choose the perfect bat, taking a few practice swings before stepping up to the plate. Unfortunately, I approached the grass like a minor leaguer: I just couldn’t find the sweet spot. I’d either cut it so low it roasted in the summer sun, or so high it reached my knees two days later. As a result, my wife went to the bullpen for relief in the form of a professional.

Alas, too late to salvage a win.

I’ve always had an adversarial relationship with my lawn. I look at it as something to be conquered, not cared for. My lawn maintenance plan mainly consists of praying for rain and hoping the wind will blow the leaves over to my neighbor’s property. The only kindness I show my lawn is in the form of the clay figure of St. Francis of Assisi we stuck over by the daisies. These days, Francis’ outstretched hand acts like a botanical Statue of Liberty as he looks out over our arid acre: “Give me your crabgrass, your dandelions, your clumps of unidentifiable brown stuff, yearning to breathe free ... ”

Like Elvis, our grass has long left the building, an accidental metaphor for our mental state in this time of pandemic. Behind my back, my lawn has exposed me for the fraud I’ve become. I post pictures on social media at awkward angles to further the lie that our property is more than a collection of weeds and pollen. My brother’s lawn is something out of a Scott’s commercial; mine is something out of an ant farm.

The birds that used to land in droves and peck for seeds each spring have resorted to dumpster diving in our potted plants. Even the bunnies have abandoned us. We refer to the area just outside our back door as The Killing Fields every winter because our dogs refuse to go further than five feet in the cold before doing their doggy business. The end result is a patch of dead grass that turns into a dust bowl by spring, leading us to spend the summer cleaning up all the dirt we track to the kitchen.

I tried, though. Really. I hired a lawn service for one season but they only made it worse. I once tried sprinkling those magic pellets I saw on TV but all that did was cover the dirt in bluish spider webs that washed away in the first rain like a clown washing off makeup. I finally tried painstakingly prepping the ground and laying quality seed while carefully watering it so that … nah, I’m just kidding. I didn’t do that last one at all. The Mets game was on.

If I’m to be judged by the quality of my lawn, I can only pray for a pardon from the governor. They’ll no doubt point to my decision to pave paradise and put in a parking lot when they officially revoke my Man Card. In the meantime, I’m all ears if Joni Mitchell wants to come over and give it a try.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.